It's only two weeks since Collegians beat Shellharbour 38-18 in the Illawarra Coal League regular season but today’s elimination final at WIN Stadium means what it says.
For either Collies or the Sharks it’s game over for 2012.
Both teams were in fine form last Saturday as Shellharbour bounced back from their loss to Collies by downing Helensburgh 30-20 at Ron Costello Oval, while the Dogs were pipped by Thirroul 30-28 at Gibson Park courtesy of a conversion by prop Shane Grady after the full-time siren.
Collies winger Ron Kissell has been ruled out with a hamstring injury and they are likely to be without fullback Henry Raiwalui who has been named in the Illawarra Cutters side to play Wentworthville in the NSW Cup at Parramatta Stadium today.
The Dogs have been the big improvers towards the back end of the season but will need to be at their best to overcome the Sharks whose forward nucleus led by front rowers, captain Damien Paulissen and Derek Short, set the foundations in defence and attack.
The Dogs will also rely on their pack, which includes props Peni Botiki and Jarrod Thompson and lock Phil Crosby to provide their go-forward.
‘‘I’m continually asking questions of the boys and challenging them and getting them to play to the structure we’ve got in place,’’ Collies coach Scott Logan said.
‘‘Each week we’re making inroads into that. I couldn’t really be happier.
‘‘They [Shellharbour] had a good win against Helensburgh at home so they’ll definitely take confidence out of that.
‘‘I’d be disappointed if our boys aren’t up for it. We’re definitely not disappointed taking that game [against Thirroul] into the finals. There was a good level of commitment to each other. We definitely had to bust our backsides at different times in that game and scramble defensively.
‘‘That shows we’re working for each other.’’
For the five teams in the finals series it’s like a new competition has started.
‘‘It’s not going to change the way we play but obviously there’ll be that desperation factor in everything we do. We’re looking to produce high completion rates, get to our kicks, play good field position.
‘‘We didn’t start the game [against Thirroul] too well in terms of a bit of discipline and a couple of little errors – we were 5-1 down in the penalty count last week – but it’s something we continually work on.’’
Northern Illawarra rivals Thirroul and Helensburgh meet in the qualifying final at WIN Stadium tomorrow.
While the Butchers edged out Collies last Saturday, the Tigers were soundly beaten by the Sharks and will need to put that loss behind them to threaten Thirroul who are playing in their 19th consecutive finals series.
Tomorrow’s loser will play the winner of today’s elimination final in the minor final at WIN Stadium next Saturday (August 18) while the winner will play reigning premiers and minor premiers Wests in the major final at the same venue the following day.
Illawarra Coal League Elimination Final
TODAY: Shellharbour v Collegians, WIN Stadium (3pm)
TOMORROW: Thirroul v Helensburgh, WIN Stadium (3pm)